Car shop set off airbag, now it's waiting indefinitely for a replacement. What can I do?

My son’s a senior in college in Los Angeles. His Mazda 3 got scratched while parked on a street near his apartment, so he filed an insurance claim and took the car for repairs to the body shop Allstate recommended. The damage to be repaired was a long scrape along the front and back drivers-side doors; there was no apparent impact or structural damage.

After several weeks of waiting for parts, the shop told my son that they accidentally triggered an airbag (I’m not sure which one), and now they cannot release the car to him until that is replaced. Worse, they said that due to a widespread shortage of (Mazda) airbags, they have no idea when they’ll be able to get a replacement, and it might not even be this year. That’s bad enough normally, but my son is graduating next month and will likely be moving to another state when he starts his job a month or so after that. So by the time the car is ready, it’s likely nobody in the family will still live near it. I’m in San Jose, so I could fly down and drive it back, but that’s a big chunk of time and money I’m not excited to spend.

So now we’re kind of at a loss about what to do. Normally I’d only expect the shop to be liable for fixing whatever they broke, but this is kind of crazy. Do we have any legal or practical recourse? I’ll be talking more with Allstate and the shop, but since neither of them is a neutral party here I was hoping for some outside advice.

Dang supply chain issues!


That is your best source for solutions . Whatever you get from a forum will mean nothing as this is an insurance and legal problem .

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Just a thought but maybe you could either get the shop or Allstate to buy it since he is moving out of state will be needing a car wherever he ends up.

I guess the first question is, is there actually a California law that requires the shop to hold the car? We have discussed this before without resolution. The shop, patrol, or a lawyer needs to cite the actual statute so you can read it.

There is no reason a car cannot be driven without an air bag. We did it for years. You just have to be careful and maybe the shop means they would be liable?

I think the very least is the owe a loaner car for the duration.

You may need a lawyer to unravel this.

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Since the body shop accepted fault for the airbag deploying, ask them to pay for the rental car once the insurance company stops paying for it. I don’t believe the body shop can be expected to deliver the car to your son’s new location.

Our first round of discussions with Allstate and the body shop lead to the shop providing 30 days of car rental, which will end in a couple weeks. We haven’t talked about extending it yet, so we’ll see, but I can’t imagine the shop agreeing to indefinite rental.

The idea of picking up the car without the airbags is interesting. I’ve also seen countless inconclusive threads discussing the legality and plausibility of this, but best I can tell it’s legal but maybe hard to negotiate. And eventually I’d want the airbag to be replaced, which would either mean returning the vehicle to LA or negotiating for them to pay for another shop to install it.

Given how hot the used car market is right now, maybe selling the car to the shop (or somebody in LA who doesn’t need it immediately) could actually work.

Thanks for the responses.

I have worked for dealers with body shops, insurance companies provide rental car coverage for 30 days which is often insufficient, our body shop paid for additional rental time.

I suspect they set off the side curtain airbags. They are not going to release the vehicle with an inoperative safety system.

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You might not be able to imagine that they would agree to an indefinite rental BUT they were the ones who made the mistake by triggering the airbag. As a consequence of their actions they need to be accountable for providing a safe and functional vehicle until is repaired. I would also speak to Allstate since this is one of their “recommended” repair shops.

Lastly, as stated numerous times in this thread already, it is “lawyer time”. You can make as many phone calls and send as many emails as you like and they will likely string you along. The minute the shop and Allstate are contacted by an attorney they completely change their approach to the matter (in a good way for you). It’s time for action.


That’s a tough one. Here’s some ideas anyway.

  • Offer to sign a liability waiver, saying you won’t hold either the insurance company nor the body shop liable for any property or personal damages in the event the missing airbag causes a problem.

  • Rather than providing a short term rental car, suggest they purchase a used car and let your son drive it until they can resolve the airbag problem. They’ll eventually get the used car back , so not as much expense to them.

  • Next in line is hiring an insurance-specialist lawyer to resolve this for you. I hear their advertisements on the radio nearly every day, so this sort of problem must not be that uncommon. the problem w/this approach is that it can become very time consuming, lots of paperwork, and the never-ending court dates may nail down your schedule, prevent you from moving about freely.

Why can’t they put one in from an auto parts recycler ?

Resolve what? They have been provided with a rental car and the body shop is repairing the car.

Most “auto parts recyclers” refuse to sell airbags due to so-called “liability concerns”. The largest junkyards here, including the two “you pull it” yards all have the policy that airbags are not for sale under any circumstances. Getting a pre-owned airbag module is a lot more difficult than it sounds.

“Pick-n-Pull” here sells them lists them for sale lists them for sale

So they are available pre-owned.

Like-Quality auto parts shows side curtain airbags for $155. Some auto manufactures do not approve of the use of used passive restraint parts, the body shop may agree with this.

The part is on back-order, the telephone receptionist cannot give a release date. Let’s wait two weeks before launching an offensive, a lawyer is not going to bring an airbag any sooner.

I suspect part of the problem is California. I’d still like to see the statute that says a shop can hold a car with a safety defect. I suspect it doesn’t exist and it is either a shop or insurance policy dictate. Breaking through that can be tough and complicating it is the car is needed to go out of state. Going to have to be a compromise here somewhere so a little pressure.
I remember I had a seat belt buckle that had worn out. I got a new one and went to a good auto upholstery shop to have the new buckle sewn in. They really did not want to do it due to liability concerns. They finally agreed to do it but didn’t like it. Better than not having a working belt.

A story again. I keep thinking about the guy’s face when the air bag went off. That surprised confused look. Some years ago at work it was closing time and the night guard had come in. I got a call that there was water coming out of the 3rd floor mens room and there was water cascading down the stairway. When I got up there the guard was standing in about an inch of water holding the 2" cap from a urinal in his hand looking stupid and surprised. He said the cap was loose and he took it off. Took a while to get the engineer back to shut the water off, and a crew worked till midnight cleaning up the water off the floor, stairs, and the electrical duct system. I can still see the guy standing there. Told him don’t touch anything else.

A friend had the drivers seat belt retractor lock up. He took it to the Honda dealer a month ago, they gave him a free loaner, the car is a 2014 - long out of warranty. They will not let him drive the car with a known safety issue. Honda cannot give an ETA on the part, I found several on line but Honda told my friend they won’t use non Honda parts. My guess is they do not want to assume liability in the unlikely event a replacement safety item failed.

Replacement parts for cars are hit and miss, some are on the shelf, others are as scarce as hens teeth.

In Michigan it is illegal for a service shop to hold a vehicle except for liens. But they can call the police and the owner can get pulled over the second they hit the street and get the car towed if it is unsafe.

I thought the shop told the OP it might take until next year to obtain the part. The rental car is only for 1 month, right? Hopefully the job will be done within the month, then there’s nothing to resolve, you are right on that point.